Breaking! U.S. Senator Cory Booker Reintroduces The Farm System Reform Act; Multi-Layered Legislation Includes Putting A Moratorium On Large Factory Farms
Earlier this week, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker reintroduced The Farm System Reform Act, federal legislation that aims to transform the broken food system built by multinational meatpacking corporations.
Placing a moratorium on large factory farms, which are sometimes referred to as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), is among the significant steps detailed in the new legislation. Further, the plan also intends to hold the greedy industry, and the companies that profit from it, legally accountable for their negative environmental and public health impacts. It also provides a voluntary buyout for farmers who want to transition out of the meat and dairy industry into an industry that is more sustainable.
As noted in a statement on Senator Booker’s website, factory farms produce enormous amounts of animal waste and other harmful pollutants that can contaminate waterways and drinking water. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, large CAFOs produce as much as 1.4 billion tons of waste each year and are not required to maintain a treatment facility for farm animal waste.
A 2021 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) also found that air pollution due to animal agriculture is responsible for a staggering 12,720 deaths per year in the United States alone.
As if those were not reasons enough for smaller family farms to transition to a plant-based system, the economic concentration in agriculture has also been hurting the country, especially rural America, for decades. The top four beef packing companies reportedly control nearly 85% of the market, while the main four pork companies control 71% of the market. The market power of these companies comes at the expense of independent family farmers, who earn just 14.3 cents of every dollar spent on food.
Agricultural concentration hurts consumers as well, who experience higher prices, poorer quality, less innovation, and reduced access to food. Making things worse, the USDA has continued to allow beef and pork products that are shipped to the U.S. and processed or repackaged here to be labeled as a “product of the U.S.A.,” even when the animal was slaughtered in another country. This allows meatpackers around the world to pass their meat off as American.
The COVID-19 pandemic also exposed many of the serious weaknesses in our current food system, including the hyper-consolidation of the meat industry that resulted in a near collapse of the supply chain in the United States. Consumers found empty shelves at their grocery stores, at least 259 meat processing workers died of COVID-19 after their employers failed to provide safe working conditions, and animals were cruelly killed in mass numbers.
It is time that Americans transition to a more sustainable way of living by leaving animals off their plates, leading to a healthier future for humans and animals alike.